Dad suffered a heart attack and died five years ago today. Anyone that knew him understands this loss. Those that did not missed out on knowing a man who just got it. He understood when to comfort, like when he hugged my sister after she smashed her car into his while learning to drive and never said a word about the damage. And he knew when he needed to deliver a stern warning – in as few words as possible and with a sly smirk across his face – when I showed up for a workout hungover. It worked. We never needed to speak of the message again.
In To Dad, From Kelly, I described Dad as living “somewhere between the innocent and the instigator….he was a father, friend, mentor, and teacher. And he played these roles with a playful, often devious smile spread across his face.” A friend recently relayed with me a memory he has of Dad, and I think it beats at the heart of what made Dad special.
Like several examples in your book he was very good with timing. In tenth grade he pulled me aside after practice and gave me a talk telling me I had “it”. He even called my mom one day when I was skipping practice to tell me to get my ass there. Remember I was such a punk at this time most of school faculty hated me. Deservedly so. Huge in me (slightly) turning around to at least graduate and get it together. He could be very hard on me so when I was ruled ineligible for football in 96 I was mortified and scared to face him expecting him to be livid. When he finally spotted me at a bball game he was the opposite he was very tender because he could tell that’s what I needed. Can’t say enough about how big this was to me because he was so big in my eyes. To a man who grew up without a father these things are immeasurable. Many examples in your book of things I take going forward for my own family learned from great men like your dad.
Today, I thought I would share some of Dad’s best quotes. He had a way with words – or maybe words had their way with him. Regardless, Dad’s sayings, when they worked, delivered their messages in blunt but brilliant simplicity. These words hint at the uniqueness of the man who said them and why so many of us can only shake our heads and laugh when remembering him.
The polite way to say someone talks too much:
“Their mouth runs like a bird’s ass in berry season.”
Punctuating a funny story:
“I never laughed so hard in my life.”
How to behave:
“Do as I say, not as I do.”
“You don’t know what you don’t know. So go know it.”
Prowess on the football field:
“Size helps, but speed kills.”
“Hit ‘em in the mouth and come out their asshole.”
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. So be perfect.”
“Every day you either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same.”
“Are you nervous? Good, because if you aren’t nervous then you won’t do well.” (Dad said this about school, sports, jobs, and everything, really.)
“Kelly, quit overthinking and win the damn race. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Playing through pain:
“The only time you’re healthy in sports is the first practice of the year. For the rest of season, you’re either sore or injured. Get used to it and don’t complain.”
“Don’t expect a medal just for showing up. You have to earn what you get in life.”
“It ain’t about what’s done; it’s about what you do with what’s done that counts.”
“Mess with the bull, and you get the horn.”
“You’re of age now, Kelly, so if you want to drink and hang out with the boys, I’m not stopping you. But I want to share something with you that your Grandpa Lytle told me around your age. Your grandpa said that many guys can drink, but Lytle men play it off the next day as if nothing happened the night before. So, if you wanna be a Lytle, don’t let a hangover change anything about your next day and you’d better not let anyone see you suffer. I don’t care if you spend the entire day making yourself throw up in private or if you cry yourself to sleep at night; make sure the only person who knows how sick you are is you.”
“Son, don’t bullshit a bullshitter.”
“AMF.” In Dad speak, AMF meant “Adios, mother fucker.”